Israel’s Supreme Court began hearings Wednesday on a contentious natural gas deal aimed at tapping major reserves in the Mediterranean that could lead to important shifts in the region’s energy supplies.
The deal between the Israeli government and a consortium including US firm Noble Energy, pushed forward by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, has been criticized by those who say it overly favors the companies involved.
Netanyahu indicated that he intends to take part in the Supreme Court hearing and defend the gas deal.
The court was full as judges began hearing five challenges to the complex accord that would lead to the development of the Leviathan field in the Mediterranean, described as one of the biggest recent natural gas discoveries.
Israel’s monopolies commission opposed an initial agreement between the government, Noble and its Israeli partner Delek, leading to months of further negotiations under strong political pressure.
Netanyahu signed a new deal on December 17, with the companies having agreed to sell some of their other assets as part of the accord.
To sidestep anti-trust objections, Netanyahu used an obscure clause allowing the deal to be pushed through by the economy minister – a portfolio he now holds.